FIVE Icon Zinedine Zidane

FIVE Icon Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane’s indelible marks on football makes him a FIVE icon…

There’s a unique irony about the fact a man so gifted with both feet, a footballer considered the greatest of his generation, will be forever remembered for the acts of his head. This is the duality of Zinedine Zidane.

A player with a poise, guile, and touch so flawless it so often appeared balletic, who nevertheless saved his two most notable acts for his rugged, hairless dome. The boy from the suburbs of Marseille, who would go on to become one of the first real Galacticos at Real Madrid. The Champions League, Serie A and La Liga winner and three-time FIFA World player of the year, who would also collect a total of 14 red cards. A player of such beauty and grace, yet one capable of acts of petulance and violence.

Zidane’s beguiling career is littered with intertwining tales of dark and light, and nowhere is this better demonstrated than on the world stage, eight years apart.

First in 1998, with a hairstyle resembling a 14th century monk, Zidane dazzled with a vision and range of passing that at times even seemed divine. But by his second game, he had shown there was nothing angelic about his temperament, sent off for an unseemly stamp against Saudi Arabia.

True to form, Zidane would go from trough to peak in a matter of days. His now increasingly recognisable head met two first half corners at the Stade de France in the host nation’s 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil. Millions celebrated on the Champs Elysees. Overnight, “Zizou” had become a national hero and a symbol for a united France.

Fast forward to 2006, and an ageing Zidane was coaxed out of retirement to lead his side to another World Cup Final, against Italy in Berlin. The poise and control he brought to a disjointed French team was encapsulated in the seventh-minute penalty he caressed past Gianluigi Buffon. Then after 110 minutes, with the scores tied, Zidane rose to meet a Willy Sagnol cross and connected as sweetly as he had done in Paris eight years earlier.

Only this time his header did not trouble the back of the net. Buffon’s hand managed what Claudio Taffarel’s had failed in ’98, and clawed the ball over the bar. Zidane was stunned. Seconds later, the millions watching would be just as incredulous, as Zizou’s destiny would take a darker turn. After thrusting his forehead into Marco Materazzi’s chest, the French captain trudged from the field for the final time.

Eight years earlier, his face had been projected onto the Arc de Triomphe. Now, head bowed, and walking past a World Cup trophy out of reach, it provided a stunning contrast that Zidane alone could have conjured.

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